Archduke Ferdinand and his LOVELY wife Sofie -- Origin, please?
March 2, 2014 12:48 PM   Subscribe

The phrase "Archduke Ferdinand and his Lovely Wife Sofie" is a thing, somehow. Where did this originate?

After mentioning this habit of our High School World History Teacher to talk about WWI starting with the assassination of "Archduke Ferdinand and his LOOOOVELY wife Sofia" someone else said that when researching WWI recently, they noticed this "Lovely" pattern, so I just googled it right now, and there does seem to be a clear pattern of "Archduke Ferdinand and his lovely" (sometimes this says "bride" or sometimes "wife", sometimes with the wrong name... regardless).

Clearly, this is A THING.

I tried it with like... Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman and Prince Philip and only a couple results turned up. Prince Charles had some more results than the previous names, though not as many as Archduke Ferdinand. Czar Nicholas does not have any such results. I admit to not knowing much other royalty to test this out on, and I don't think it works very well with US leaders. But...

Recently, someone even posted on a teacher review site that their teacher in Nevada did this, and they mention a movie:
"Her lectures are the best and she makes history fun. Her best lecture is the movie with Archduke Ferdinand (and his lovely wife Sooophie!).Great!"
Is there, perhaps, some movie that used this phrase, maybe? Is there maybe a college professor who is behind this (and all their protege's took on that peculiar habit)? Was this a common phrase at some point in all media referring to Sofie? Clearly there is something behind this that has seen it spread as a phenomenon where other wives do not get the same treatment.
posted by symbioid to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Your google link shows her name as Susan, Philipina (from a book published in 1896), and Sophie, so I don't think it's all that common. Seems like people who answer online questions google for answers and then just repeat whatever they find.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:55 PM on March 2, 2014

Do you have Twitter? Maybe ask these people?
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:59 PM on March 2, 2014

If I recall correctly, it was a morganatic marriage, meaning that Ferdinand married without the approval of the Emperor and their children were not eligible to inherit. This implies a love match. Perhaps she was a beauty.
posted by bq at 1:02 PM on March 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Haven't found proof yet, but I could swear that line was used in a Monty Python sketch.
posted by superna at 1:10 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was also certain this was a Monty Python quote, but couldn't find any evidence.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:23 PM on March 2, 2014

I tried it with like... Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman and Prince Philip and only a couple results turned up.

Those are all people who happened to be married, who had wives. But Archduke Ferdinand and his wife are more than that. The big event that set off WWI was an assassin who killed Archduke Ferdinand and his wife. This is, arguably, the thing for which Ferdinand is most famous. So it makes sense that his name would be tied to that of his wife in ways that are not true of other leaders or royals.

That doesn't explain your perception of a specific catchphrase. But it might be an explanation (albeit maybe a not very interesting/satisfying one) for the fact that you see his name accompanied by "and his [lovely] wife" more than other leaders.
posted by ManInSuit at 1:30 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure I first heard the " and his lovely wife" thing 20ish years ago, in college.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:32 PM on March 2, 2014

I'm a little confused - I've heard this phrase used all my life, and not specifically to Archduke Francis Ferdinand. In origin, "and his lovely wife" has been around at least since the 18th century, based on Google Books, movie references and the kinds of introductions people made to audiences, and has been used ironically for decades already. Sure it's not just a simple example of that common, attempting-to-be-slightly-witty construction?
posted by Miko at 1:32 PM on March 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

It appears to be part of the UK curriculum even (pdf) or at least Suffolk schools.

And it really does stick out, given the brevity of everything else:

The Balkans—the powder keg of Europe
Sarajevo, Bosnia
June 28, 1914
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his lovely wife, Sophie
Heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary
He was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand
Austria blames Serbia for the assassination because Princip is of Serbian descent.
Austria gives Serbia an ultimatum
Russia moves to protect Serbia.
Austria, with Germany’s encouragement, declares war on Serbia.
Germany declares war on Russia.
France declares war on Germany.
World War I begins.

As to where that came from...
posted by vacapinta at 1:33 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is it possible that this is a picture caption in a book that everyone read in high school? This website might be indicating so: I still have the waggle dance of the honey bee stuck in my mind and I can see how teenagers might get the lovely wife stuck in theirs.
posted by dness2 at 1:38 PM on March 2, 2014

A pastel portrait of the lovely Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:38 PM on March 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I saw that Tumblr dness2, but I just took it as someone else repeating the same old thing, not necessarily that it was taken from the book, though I do suppose the italics might indicate such (but it's possible they were italicizing as a quote from a teacher, too LOL)

Interesting that it's there for the UK Curriculum.

I'm wondering if it's a Monty Python thing or maybe related to the Morganatic Marriage(?) I see that it is possible that it's not referring to her, when you see the other names (philip-pina) and Susan are strange.

There's definitely a lot of "and his lovely wife", when removing the 2 seeming books, there still is a lot of Twitter and such things - more sarcastic/ironically it seems. So that generic version clutters it up a bit. Maybe it's just a Baader-Meinhoff thing?
posted by symbioid at 2:00 PM on March 2, 2014

Vacapinta, your link is Suffolk, Virginia public schools, not the UK, and it's not part of the curricula, just instructions for some assignment.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:01 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

My UK-centric outlook immediately filled in Suffolk UK. Sorry about that.

Still, there it is, even as instructions for an assignment it is odd.

Also found this in a Boston Red Sox forum:

Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his lovely wife Sophie?

Thats how they taught it to us in school...

posted by vacapinta at 2:06 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

And there's someone on Twitter who uses the phase, but I think it's just a common usage for any number of lovely wives.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:09 PM on March 2, 2014

I'm increasingly thinking this is not "a thing", at least not broadly.

Compare, eg, on google searches:

"archduke franz ferdinand and his wife" = 31.000 hits
"archduke franz ferdinand and his lovely wife" = 474 hits
= 1.5% of wife references say "his lovely wife"

"John F Kennedy and his wife" = 2,700,000 hits
"John F Kennedy and his lovely wife" = 110,000 hits
= 4% of wife references say "his lovely wife"

I'm guessing that:
a) The archduke and his wife are mentioned together a lot because history connected them very closely (as per my post above)
b) She is occasionally called lovely because lovely women are sometimes called lovely.
c) For some people it may have become a catchphrase, but only locally (ie: a particular high shool history class, as referenced above in twitter)
posted by ManInSuit at 2:13 PM on March 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

"and his lovely wife" = 7.5 million hits.

They're just saying that to mean "and his wife."
posted by goethean at 2:43 PM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a bit of a Habsburg history geek, and I've never come across this (at least not with any frequency that has made it stand out for me). I did a search through all the Monty Python TV scripts and it doesn't show up there, either. I haven't found it in any of the main works I have access to that cover the period, but I'll keep looking. But it does strike me as a catchphrase from someone's history class that went slightly viral.

For what it's worth, FF's marriage to Sophie was indeed a morganatic one (she was an artistocrat, but not enough of an aristocrat to satisfy the iron-clad dynastic protocol about these things). It was a love match, and she was very pretty, even if she was, in the emperor's words, "no longer young" (i.e., in her early 30s!). Because of the morganatic marriage, though, she was considered the lowliest member of court, and was treated accordingly. At any official court event, for example, she was not allowed to attend with her husband, so if they went to the opera together he would be seated in the royal box and she would be seated in a separate box suitable for her station.

Leopold Wolfling, who was a fairly low-ranking archduke who eventually renounced his title for his (unhappy) morganatic marriage, recalled in his memoirs how Sophie was so low at court that she was forced to walk at the very end of any royal procession:
And last of all, after the youngest girl-Archduchess, would come the despised Sophie.... Not that there was any trace of a downtrodden Cinderella about her. She avenged herself on the emperor in turn by being the most flamboyantly dressed woman in the entourage.... Arrayed in nearly all the colors of the rainbow, Sophie used to put on as many jewels as she could carry—her neck bound by a dog-collar of diamonds and, Slav-fashion, her wrists and fingers decked with all kinds of stones.... She gazed on all around her with haughty nonchalance, giving the impression that the reason why so few people spoke to her was because she would not deign to speak with them.
Wolfling has to be taken with a few grains of salt, as he was using his memoirs to settle various scores with the Habsburgs, but it does give the impression that she was both a striking figure and a disliked one, so maybe "his lovely wife" originated somewhere as an ironic comment on how she was actually viewed by the court.
posted by scody at 3:12 PM on March 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

FF's marriage to Sophie was indeed a morganatic one (she was an artistocrat, but not enough of an aristocrat to satisfy the iron-clad dynastic protocol about these things).

Might "lovely" have been a replacement for a title (that Sophie didn't have)?

I think the construction usually is something like, "Queen Elizabeth* and her husband, Prince Phillip," but in Sophie's case, maybe she didn't have a title (or a sufficiently high title) to put in front of her name, and so she was just called "lovely" instead.

*Or HRH Queen Elizabeth? Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth? Sorry, no offense meant, noble titles just confuse me altogether.
posted by rue72 at 4:11 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Scody, did they make any trips to anglophone countries after their wedding?

My guess would be from contemporary newspaper accounts.
posted by brujita at 5:24 PM on March 2, 2014

Might "lovely" have been a replacement for a title (that Sophie didn't have)?

No, she was given a title -- she was made the Princess of Hohenberg upon her marriage (and later she got an upgrade to Duchess of Hohenberg), and was styled Her Serene Highness. It sounds fancy to our ears, but this was all pretty low on the Habsburg totem pole, and was a far cry from being an archduchess. (And was done to ensure that she could never claim to be queen or empress.)

Scody, did they make any trips to anglophone countries after their wedding? My guess would be from contemporary newspaper accounts.

They did visit Britain at least once, and apparently George V was one of the few royal courts to receive her on equal footing as FF. That's an good thought that perhaps she was referred to as "his lovely wife" in newspaper accounts -- I'll do some digging!
posted by scody at 6:20 PM on March 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm a little confused - I've heard this phrase used all my life, and not specifically to Archduke Francis Ferdinand.

Yes, but it's weird to use it for people that have been dead a century in the context of a historical discussion or lesson. You might use that phrase when introducing them in person, not in a lecture. It's a very common turn of phrase, but it's being used uncommonly here. I think that's why OP thinks it's a specific reference.

I'm thinking the "British newspapers" angle makes sense. Reminds me of how Jackie Kennedy was called Jack Kennedy's "lovely wife" in old campaign newsreels (but otherwise not how you would refer to her today).
posted by spaltavian at 6:41 PM on March 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Scody, that seems to make a lot of sense. If it was a sort of ironic statement in terms of her station, most especially with how my teacher put the emphasis on "lovely" (as in "and his loooooooovely wife, Sofie"). It had at once a charm, but also perhaps a bit of contempt, maybe that was meant to convey that, a respect from our modern sensibilities, but the disdain from the prior generation. It did seem almost like an inside joke. I do think maybe it was a teacher at some point who past it along to their proteges and it carried along to small pockets in the US, perhaps...
posted by symbioid at 7:17 PM on March 2, 2014

Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Philippina Wieser were an earlier set of Hapsburgs, dating from the late 1500s. Some of their story is here.

FWIW, looking at the list of Austrian Archdukes I see at least 25 different ones named Ferdinand--something to be aware of when searching for "Archduke Ferdinand".
posted by flug at 7:51 PM on March 2, 2014

I just did a Nexis search and got two relevant hits. In a remembrance of Waikato University (NZ) lecturer Lewis Fritz (who was an American), former student Gordon Jon Thompson offers this recollection, writing in the Waikato Times in 1999:
In the first lecture I attended, I was amazed that he didn't refer to notes once during the 50-minute instruction on how World War I started in the Balkans in 1914.

I can still recall his first sentence -- I think I even repeated it in my essay answer.

"In June 1914 Austria-Hungary heir Prince Ferdinand and his lovely wife Sophie were in Sarajevo . . ."
Going back further in time (and also more closely on point), in a 1981 Globe and Mail review of William Mathieson's book My Grandfather's War: Canadians Remember the First World War, 1914-1918, the late novelist Timothy Findley is quite critical of the whole "lovely wife" notion:
He knew the flags and drums and uniforms would work their magic, just as he knew the word "volunteers" would work its magic, too - if he repeated it often enough. Sam Hughes was good at that. War was his passion. Yet William Mathieson merely describes him as "colorful." Colorful, maybe, if Mathieson means blood red. He also describes Sam Hughes's exhortations as "appeals" to the men of Canada. Hardly. And there is something else wrong. In the very first paragraph of Mathieson's introduction, he is setting up the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo, and the final sentence of this paragraph reads, "Beside him in the back seat was his lovely wife, Sophie." Oh.

In other words, William Mathieson sets right out along with all the others - even as he begins to tell of what must surely be the worst of all possible wars in the history of humankind. Casting his lure, he tells us that Sophie Chotek was "lovely."

She wasn't. (Which is neither here nor there.)

But the words "his lovely wife" make an awfully effective hook. They did then. They still do. Like the flags and the bands and the uniforms and the cheering with which that war began - and ended. Not that anyone can prevent it from beginning, now that it's over. But every time a person reads or hears of how it was in August, 1914, there is this overwhelming impulse to call out: "Stop! Wait! Think!" And: "Look around you" - knowing already, with a certain resignation, that the dead young woman in Thornton Wilder's play is tragically right when she says, "That's all human beings are. Just blind people." Not only before the fact, but apparently after it, too.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:30 PM on March 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yes, but it's weird to use it for people that have been dead a century in the context of a historical discussion or lesson.

Not if you're a high school history teacher trying to make this stuff interesting.
posted by Miko at 9:35 PM on March 2, 2014

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